The Columbia University School of the Arts (also known as School of the Arts or SoA) is the fine arts graduate school of Columbia University in Morningside Heights, New York. It offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Film, Visual Arts, Theatre and Writing, as well as the Master of Arts (MA) degree in Film Studies. It also works closely with the Arts Initiative at Columbia University (CUArts) and organizes the Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF), a week-long program of screenings, screenplay, and teleplay readings.
Founded in 1965, the school is one of the leading institutions for the study of visual and performing arts in the United States. Among the school's distinguished graduates are sculptors David Altmejd and Banks Violette, visual artist Lisi Raskin, painters Marc Handelman and Dana Schutz, screenwriter Jennifer Lee and James Mangold, screenwriter and actress Gülse Birsel and directors Kathryn Bigelow and James Gunn.
The history of the School of Arts can be traced back to the first courses in drawing offered at Columbia in 1881. In 1900, drama critic Brander Matthews was appointed professor of Dramatic Literature, first chair of drama at any university in the country. Courses in creative writing, film, and painting followed. In 1921, the Department of Fine Arts was established for the study of architecture, painting, sculpture and scholarly works in those fields. The university's first sculpture classes were offered in 1936, followed two years later by graphic art classes. In 1947, the School of Painting and Sculpture, and the School of Dramatic Arts were established.
In December 1965, the Trustees of Columbia established the School of the Arts to train both graduate and undergraduate students. In 1970, the school began offering only graduate courses. A year later, it moved into Dodge Hall at Broadway and 116th Street and Prentis Hall on 125th Street, where the school’s classrooms, rehearsal spaces and administrative offices are located. In 1988, the Miller Theatre, constructed in 1924, was established as Columbia's performing arts producer following renovations to the previous space known as the McMillin Academic Theatre. In 2017, construction was completed on Renzo Piano's 60,000-square-foot Lenfest Center for the Arts, a multidisciplinary academic and performance space on Columbia's Manhattanville campus. The Lenfest also houses the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery.
In 2021, the School of Arts was the subject of a Wall Street Journal investigative report into prestigious universities that run programs that have lopsided costs for students relative to their expected earnings in the field. According to the Journal, "Columbia has more high-debt master's degree programs in low-paying fields than any other Ivy League university." The article further stated alumni carry a median debt of $181,000 USD, "the highest debt compared with earnings among graduates of any major university master’s program in the U.S."
The School of the Arts's Film Program is well-regarded in the field and offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees with concentrations in Screenwriting/Directing and Creative Producing. The program also offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Film Studies.
In 2016, the MFA film program accepted 72 students out of approximately 600 applicants. The Hollywood Reporter ranked it number four in the top 25 American film schools of 2020.
The School of Arts's Theatre Program offers Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degrees in theater with concentrations in acting, directing, playwriting, dramaturgy, stage management, and theater management and producing. The playwriting concentration has been heralded by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage and Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang.
In 2018, applications to the acting concentration doubled with the appointment of former Yale School of Drama acting professor Ron Van Lieu. The acting concentration has emerged as one of the highest ranking graduate acting programs in the world  and is helmed by casting director James Calleri.
The Theatre Program also offers a Ph.D. and joint J.D./M.F.A. degree in association with Columbia Law School.
In the Visual Arts Program at the School of Arts, students work in the fields of painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, digital media, drawing, performance, and video art.
The School of Arts's writing program offers degrees in creative writing, with concentrations in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. One of its more notable features are "master classes," four-week courses for writers (as opposed to critical scholars) "designed to stimulate provocative discussions about literary craft and artistic choices." Master class faculty have included Helen Vendler, Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead, James Wood, Richard Ford, Han Ong, Susan Choi, and Jonathan Ames. The writing division also employs prestigious writers as seminar and workshop instructors; in recent years these have included Zadie Smith, Gary Shteyngart, Nathan Englander, Myla Goldberg, Adam Haslett, Jessica Hagedorn, Phillip Lopate, Marie Howe, Eamon Grennan, Paul LaFarge, David Gates, Francisco Goldman, Darcy Frey, and David Ebershoff.
Deans of Columbia School of the ArtsEdit
- Davidson Taylor (1966–1971)
- Frank MacShane (interim dean, 1971–1972)
- Bernard Beckerman (1972–1976)
- Schuyler G. Chapin (1976–1987)
- Peter Smith (1987–1995)
- Robert Fitzpatrick (1995–1998)
- Dan Kleinman (acting, 1998–1999)
- Bruce W. Ferguson (1999–2005)
- Dan Kleinman (acting, 2005–2007)
- Carol Becker (2007 to present)
Notable alumni and attendeesEdit
- Ayad Akhtar - screenwriter and actor, The War Within; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Disgraced
- Alice Arlen - screenwriter of Silkwood, The Weight of Water, Then She Found Me
- Bogdan Apetri (2006) - screenwriter, film director
- Sophie Barthes - screenwriter, film director
- Albert Berger - Producer Little Children, Little Miss Sunshine, Cold Mountain
- Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini - Academy Award nominated screenwriter-directors, American Splendor, The Nanny Diaries
- Kathryn Bigelow (1979) - screenwriter, film director, producer and two time Academy Award winner for The Hurt Locker (2009).
- Anna Boden - co-screenwriter and director, Half Nelson, Captain Marvel
- Richard Brick (1971) - producer Hangin' with the Homeboys, Caught; Co-Producer Deconstructing Harry, Celebrity, Sweet and Lowdown, Arizona Dream
- Liz Chae - screenwriter, film director, documentary director, The Last Mermaids (documentary)
- Lisa Cholodenko (1998) - screenwriter and film director, The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon, The L Word
- Deborah Chow (2003) - screenwriter, television and film director, The High Cost of Living; director, The Mandalorian
- Richard Corliss - Time magazine film critic
- Cherien Dabis (2004) - filmmaker, screenwriter - The L Word, Amreeka
- Sabrina Dhawan - screenwriter, Monsoon Wedding
- Scott Ferguson (1990) - executive producer, Succession
- Michael France - screenwriter, Goldeneye, Cliffhanger
- James Franco (2010) - filmmaker, actor, screenwriter, producer
- Nicole Holofcener - film and TV director, screenwriter Please Give, Enough Said, Friends With Money, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, Six Feet Under
- Courtney Hunt - Academy Award nominated screenwriter and film director, Frozen River, The Whole Truth
- Phil Johnston - screenwriter, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia; co-director, Ralph Breaks the Internet
- Khary Jones - Award-winning screenwriter and film director, Hug
- Simon Kinberg - screenwriter Mr. & Mrs. Smith, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past
- Yves Lavandier (1983–85) - screenwriter, director and script doctor
- Jennifer Lee (2005) - Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph
- Ashley Lyle - co-creator, Yellowjackets
- John Magary - film director, screenwriter The Mend (film)
- SJ Main Muñoz (2004) - screenwriter and film director, Requiescat ; director, American Horror Stories, Manifest, The Cleaning Lady
- James Mangold - film director, screenwriter 3:10 to Yuma, Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, Cop Land
- Nathalie Álvarez Mesén (2019) - Guldbagge Award-winning director, Clara Sola
- Marc Moss (1983-1985) - screenwriter "Kiss The Girls", "Along Came a Spider", "Alex Cross", "Homefront"
- Greg Mottola (1991) - film director, screenwriter Adventureland, Superbad, Paul
- Mauro Mueller (2008) - film director, producer, screenwriter Copenhagen, A World for Raúl, Dear Chickens
- Ron Nyswaner (1981) - screenwriter, The Painted Veil
- David Pastor (2004) - screenwriter, film director, Carriers
- Kimberly Peirce (1996) - director, Boys Don't Cry, Stop-Loss
- James Ponsoldt - writer and director of The End of the Tour, The Spectacular Now, and Smashed
- Mark Raso (2008) - screenwriter, film director, Copenhagen, Kodachrome, Awake
- Patricia Riggen (2003) - screenwriter, film director, The 33, Girl in Progress, Miracles from Heaven
- Jay Russell (1985) - screenwriter, director, producer My Dog Skip, Ladder 49, Tuck Everlasting
- Saim Sadiq (1999) - director, Joyland
- Beth Schacter (2004) - screenwriter, film director, Normal Adolescent Behavior, Forget Me Nots
- Florin Serban (2008) - screenwriter, film director, If I Want to Whistle I Whistle (winner of the Jury Grand Prix & Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival)
- Jeffrey Sharp - producer, You Can Count on Me, Boys Don't Cry, Proof
- Patrick Stettner (1995) - screenwriter, film director, The Business of Strangers
- Malia Scotch Marmo - screenwriter, Once Around, Hook, Madeline
- Joan Stein (1999) - screenwriter, film director, One Day Crossing (winner of the Student Academy Award)
- Chris Teague (2006) - cinematographer, Man, The Second Line, Salt Kiss
- Eric Tuchman (1987) - executive producer, The Handmaid's Tale
- Sergio Umansky (2004) - screenwriter, film director, Here Was The Anthem
- Tanya Wexler - film director, Jolt, Hysteria, Finding North
- Armond White - film critic
- Aaron Woolfolk (1998) - film director, screenwriter The Harimaya Bridge
- Lauren Wolkstein (2009) - film director, screenwriter
- Alex Zamm (1989) - film director, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, Inspector Gadget 2
- Sameh Zoabi (2005) - screenwriter, film director, Man without a Cell Phone
- Nader Talebzadeh - film director
- Ito Aghayere (2012) - actor on Carol's Second Act on CBS
- Rachel Chavkin (2008) - theatre director, 2019 Tony Award Winner for Best Direction of a Musical
- Bathsheba Doran (2003) - playwright
- Albert Hall (1971) - actor
- Kathryn Hamilton - British theatre director
- Claire Labine - head writer of Ryan's Hope, One Life to Live, General Hospital, Where The Heart Is, Guiding Light
- Nick Mangano - stage actor and director
- Anson Mount (1998) - actor
- Diane Paulus (1997) - theater director
- James Rebhorn (1972) - actor
- Jay Scheib (1997) - theatre director
- Kathryn Shaw - director, actor, writer
- Marcel Spears (2015) - actor on The Neighborhood on CBS
- Darko Tresnjak (1998) - director and winner of a Tony Award, Obie Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award
- Beau Willimon (2003) - playwright, screenwriter, producer, creator, showrunner and executive producer of House of Cards
- Jonathan Ames (1989) - writer
- Jesse Ball (2004) - writer
- Mary Jo Bang (1998) - poet
- Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (1974) - poet
- John Bowe (1994) - journalist focussing on modern slavery
- Tina Chang (1998) - poet, named Poet Laureate of Brooklyn
- Richard Corliss (1974) - film critic
- Adam Cushman (2005) - writer, author of Cut
- Kiran Desai (1999) - winner of the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her novel The Inheritance of Loss
- Meghan Daum (1996) - writer and journalist
- Stephen J. Dubner (1990) - writer, Freakonomics
- Peter Farrelly (1986) - director, Green Book; novelist, Outside Providence
- Emily Fragos (1996) - poet, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award
- James Franco (2010) - actor
- Matt Gallagher (2013) - writer
- Rivka Galchen (2006) - fiction writer, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
- Philip Gourevitch (1992) - writer and journalist
- James Gunn (1995) - director, Guardians of the Galaxy film series
- Tama Janowitz (1986) - writer
- Maureen Johnson (2003) - novelist
- Heidi Julavits - writer
- Dave King (1999) - novelist
- Peter Knobler - writer, editor
- Benjamin Kunkel - author of Indecision
- Jean Kwok - novelist
- Clive Matson (1989) - poet, author of nine collections of poetry including Squish Boots and Chalcedony's Ten Songs
- Alec Michod (1999) - novelist
- Dinaw Mengestu (2005) - fiction writer, novelist, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
- Susan Minot (1983) - novelist and screenwriter
- Rick Moody (1986) - novelist
- Ed Park - novelist and founding editor of The Believer
- Sigrid Nunez - fiction writer, novelist, author of The Last of Her Kind, Salvation City and Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag
- Gregory Orr - poet, author of over 10 collections of poetry including River Inside the River
- Katha Pollitt (1975) - feminist writer
- Richard Price (1976) - novelist and screenwriter
- Beth Raymer (2007) - fiction writer, non-fiction writer author of Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling (turning into the film Lay the Favorite) and novel, 'Sweetheart Deals
- Karen Russell (2006) - fiction writer, author of Swamplandia!
- Anna Rabinowitz (1990) - poet, librettist
- Tracy K. Smith (1997) - poet, won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry Life On Mars
- Matthew Stadler (1987) - novelist and essayist, author of Allan Stein
- Wells Tower (2000) - fiction and non-fiction writer, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
- Vendela Vida - novelist and founding editor of The Believer
- Adam Wilson (2009) - novelist and fiction writer, author of Flatscreen
- David Altmejd - artist of sculptural systems
- Einat Amir (2009) - video and performance artist
- Korakrit Arunanondchai (2012) - video and multimedia artist
- Chitra Ganesh - visual artist
- Samara Golden (2009) - installation artist
- Marc Handelman - painter
- Louise E. Jefferson - artist, graphic designer
- Liz Magic Laser (2008) - visual and performing artist.
- Leigh Ledare - photography
- Yasue Maetake - sculptor
- Sondra Perry (2015) - interdisciplinary; video, computer-based media, and performance
- Aki Sasamoto
- Lisi Raskin (2003) - visual artist
- Edda Renouf (1971), artist and printmaker
- Rachel Rose (2013) - video artist
- Mika Rottenberg - video artist
- Dana Schutz (2002) - painter
- Banks Violette (2000) - sculptor
- Jane Zweibel (1984) - painter and art therapist
- Laurie Anderson (1972) - musician
- Kenneth Ascher, DMA (1966 CC; 1968 GSAS; 1971 SOA) – jazz pianist, composer
- Tan Dun (1993) - composer
- Robin Pecknold - frontman of the band Fleet Foxes
- Leslie Ayvazian - playwright and actor
- Ramin Bahrani - film director
- Tina Benko - actor
- Andy Bienen - screenwriter Boys Don't Cry
- Anthony Bregman - producer Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Friends With Money
- Sanford Biggers - artist
- Anne Bogart - theater director
- Deborah Brevoort - playwright, librettist and lyricist
- Richard Brick- Co-Producer Sweet and Lowdown, Celebrity, Deconstructing Harry; Producer Hangin' with the Homeboys, "Caught"
- Matthew Buckingham - artist
- James Calleri - casting director
- Chou Wen-chung - composer
- Barbara De Fina- producer Goodfellas, You Can Count on Me, Kundun, The Grifters
- Ira Deutchman- producer "Kiss Me, Guido", "All I Wanna Do", "Way Past Cool"
- Rineke Dijkstra - artist
- Katherine Dieckmann - film director, screenwriter
- Mark Dion - artist
- Trey Ellis - screenwriter, filmmaker, novelist
- Annette Insdorf - film historian
- Kristin Linklater - renowned vocal instructor
- Manoel Felciano - Tony Award-nominated actor
- Miloš Forman- film director
- Liam Gillick - artist
- Bette Gordon - film director
- Michael Hausman - producer Brokeback Mountain, Gangs of New York, The Firm, All the King's Men
- Richard Howard - Pulitzer Prize winning poet
- David Henry Hwang - Tony Award winning playwright, librettist and screenwriter
- Jamal Joseph - screenwriter, film director
- Tom Kalin - screenwriter, film director, and producer
- Jon Kessler - artist
- David Klass - screenwriter, novelist
- Binnie Kirshenbaum - author
- Ben Marcus - fiction writer
- Charles L. Mee - playwright
- Eric Mendelsohn - screenwriter, film director
- Gregory Mosher - Tony Award-winning theatrical producer
- Mira Nair - director of Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala, and Vanity Fair
- Lynn Nottage - two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama
- Richard Peña - film historian and programmer
- Adrienne Rich - poet
- Matthew Ritchie - artist
- Thomas Roma - artist
- James Schamus- producer The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, Hulk
- Dana Schutz - artist
- Andrei Şerban - theater director
- Shelly Silver - artist
- Peter Sollett- director, screenwriter Raising Victor Vargas, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
- Sarah Sze - artist
- Rirkrit Tiravanija - artist
- Ron Van Lieu - acting teacher
- Tomas Vu - artist
- Kara Walker - artist
- Harris Yulin - actor
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- ^ "Best Graduate Fine Arts Programs - US News Rankings". U.S. News & World Report.
- ^ "Brander Matthews | American writer | Britannica".
- ^ "History - Columbia School of the Arts".
- ^ "About | Miller Theatre at Columbia University".
- ^ Farago, Jason (June 2017). "Columbia's New Harlem Museum Opens, with Art from its Neighbors". The New York Times.
- ^ "Renzo Piano's Columbia University arts center is nearly complete". 23 March 2017.
- ^ Fuller, Melissa Korn and Andrea (2021-07-08). "'Financially Hobbled for Life': The Elite Master's Degrees That Don't Pay Off". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
- ^ "Defund Columbia". National Review. 13 July 2021.
- ^ "FAQ". Columbia - School of the Arts. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
- ^ "2020's Top 25 American Film Schools, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. 2020-08-24. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
- ^ Abramovitch, Seth (10 June 2019). "Top 25 Graduate Schools for an Acting Degree, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
- ^ Naficy, Hamid (2012). A Social History of Iranian Cinema. Vol. 3: The Islamicate Period, 1978–1984. Duke University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0822348771.
- ^ "Exploring Female Identity with Jane Zweibel". Create! Magazine. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
- Official website
- School of the Arts Film Program homepage
- School of the Arts Theatre Arts Program homepage
- School of the Arts Visual Arts Program homepage
- School of the Arts Writing Program homepage
- Columbia University Film Festival
- Our Word: Writers of Color at Columbia University School of the Arts
- Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art